What Moved Me To Start My Self-Love Journey at 31
If you read my last blog post “The Diaries of an Irish/American Girl Trying To Find and Identity”, you’ll know that I had a bit of an identity crisis when it came to my nationality and how I was always the perpetual foreigner, even in the country I was born in as well as the one I grew up in.
Anyway, on with this post. So, during my time trying to find out exactly where I fit in in this world, I was suffering with a myriad of other issues, many of them revolving around self-esteem and how I saw myself. Throughout my teenage years I became incredibly shy, and saw myself as not good enough, smart enough or pretty enough. Nothing atypical for teenagers, this is a pretty hard time for most young people going through puberty. I didn’t go through a lot of physical turmoil during this time, I had the usual acne and my hair got greasier and I remember being pretty traumatized the first time I had to take a razor to my armpits at 12 (what do you mean I can’t wear this string-top?!) and don’t even get me started on my bikini-line story!
I was a quiet kid, but I did have a confidence I lost as I became an adult. Just with silly things like my spelling ability and my art and whether or not I could jump over that fence. You know, super important stuff when you’re 7 or 8.
But as a teenager my confidence went through the floor. That confidence I had as a kid was still there and desperate to resurface, but my new low self-worth wouldn’t let it. After my ugly-duckling phase many teens go through, I knew I was becoming beautiful. I was super fit and did have a pretty amazing body back then. But I still compared myself to others constantly. Oh, she has such gorgeous big eyes…oh, her hair is so full and bouncy…oh her skin is so clear and flawless. You know, the usual.
As the confidence that was still inside me grew more and more frustrated with me, I became pretty desperate to prove myself. But I had no idea how to even start to go about that. So, I decided to move back to the States in 2009 to try and find my place in the world.
That first summer was one of the best summers of my life, I worked at an Irish bar on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I worked constantly, but also partied constantly. I’d get off work, go to the bar, drink, go to the beach, drink some more and go back to work on only 45 minutes of sleep….it was amazing!! I absolutely loved my new freedom! I met a guy and we started dating. He was definitely a whole new territory for me. I had only had two previous relationships, both of which were during my teens.
I went from one right onto the other and I went right into this one only a couple months after the previous one ended.
See a pattern yet?
My previous relationships were your typical teen love stories, we had no idea what we were doing, knew nothing about boundaries, attachment styles, sense of self or anything else that makes a true adult relationship work on many different levels. Also, these guys absolutely adored me, and I them.
This new guy was 13 years older than me, I was 22 at the time. And he was definitely new to me on every different level. He was invested in me but only a little. I was used to a guy absolutely loving me to death, this guy did not. Love developed eventually but it always felt forced. This is where my inexperience came in. Of course, I thought I was a relationship expert…ohhh young me, If only I knew!!
I never knew a guy couldn’t feel that way towards me and I wasn’t used to a guy having other things going on in his life besides me. Now, my readers, don’t think badly on the young me for she honestly did not know and was only going by what she was used to. Don’t judge her too harshly, she learned…oh, she learned.
As time went on, I became enamored by a man that would eventually come to test me in every sense, on every level and push my boundaries beyond their limits. You guessed it, just as my other relationship was coming to a close, I was straight into this one. This guy was 21 years older than me (yes, I know, get your sighs out of the way now). I latched onto him like Velcro and I refused to let go. What ensured was a roller coaster of a relationship that smashed my integrity, went against everything I was taught and left my view of myself ten times worse than it was before. This went on for a few years before I finally had to let him, and everything he came with, go before I became consumed with self-loathing.
Soon after I got involved casually with a very sweet guy from my martial arts class. We only stayed involved for a few weeks, but I enjoyed every moment with him. He was funny, handsome, in great shape and he had a very calming effect on me. Plus, he loved cuddling and Disney movies…so bonus!!
At this time, I was supposed to move to Las Vegas with a friend of mine so I knew a relationship with this guy wouldn’t happen. (I know we are taught to not regret things in your past, but to this day, I regret not going through with that move to Vegas.) Anyhow, he ended up taking me out to dinner one night and telling me he wanted to pursue a relationship with someone else and if it wasn’t for me moving, we would have probably continued. Even though this was my first time being broken up with, I had nothing but respect for his decision. I missed him.
So, guess what happened almost straight after that?! You guessed it, almost immediately after him I got involved with a bartender at the Irish place I worked at. This guy would be the one that absolutely rocked my world, and NOT in a good sense. You see, my readers, this was a very low point in my life. It had only been 2 or 3 months since my previous long term relationship, and I was still recovering from everything that was involved in that. So, my self-confidence, esteem and worth were at the lowest in my life and I secretly hated myself with everything I had.
This new guy was…a low life scavenger, looking to feast on the souls of the weak and fragile (which I definitely was at the time). You see, I had come across the legendary beast called the Narcissist. Now if you have not experienced the Narcissist, count your lucky stars and I hope you never do.
I’m not even kidding when I say they suck your soul. He is the only one I will give a name to. Since my family, friends and myself do not like to call this foul beast by his name and have been calling him He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I shall refer to him as Voldemort from now on, as you will be hearing about him quite a bit as you get to know me (hands out to all my HP fans out there and apologies to the actual Voldemort!!!)
So, I spent ten miserable months with Voldemort before I had to make my escape. During this time my already low self-esteem was practically non-existent, and I experienced emotional and psychological abuse to the point of not knowing what was real or not. This low life abused me to the point of not knowing reality. I’m not kidding, that is the extent of emotional abuse.
If you have been the victim of this, I feel your pain and I am so sorry. If you have not, then I hope and pray you never do.
I will forever be thankful to my sister for what she did during this time. At this point, she lived in Virginia and she flew up for a weekend, we loaded a trailer with all my stuff, and we left at 3:00am and embarked on the 15-hour drive from Massachusetts to my home-state of Virginia. In February, in a small Hyundai accent. I swear someone was looking down on us that day because we didn’t hit a lick of traffic. The whole way. I didn’t even hit the brake pedal in New York, we absolutely sailed through.
I spent the next several months in Virginia just simply existing. I truly did feel like my soul had been sucked out and all I did was go to work and go home. Nothing brought me happiness, nothing sparked joy in me. I worked at a bar and at an exotic animal clinic, even the animals didn’t spark joy in me. I wasn’t performing at work and I was just…hollow. At one point, when I was younger, I was actually a very good vet tech who could confidently handle horses, I took initiative and had pride in my work. Now, I just didn’t have the drive to do anything or perform well. The job was just a paycheck to me. This didn’t help with my self-image because I worked with some amazing people who I was very fond of. But I just could not drag myself out of my dark hole.
In December of that year, I met another guy. Yes, I stayed single for a while, yay! But during that time, I had not healed, I often refer to this time as me having a broken leg and instead of having it fixed, I just learned to walk differently.
I met this new guy and something inside me just woke up. I ended up asking him out and we started a relationship, but it was…off. I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was something seriously off about this guy. He was fun, we liked doing a lot of the same things and he was incredibly handsome. He was in the US Air Force, looked amazing in his uniform, owned his own house and seemed to have his life together. I did not get a sense of dread about him being abusive or anything like that. No, he was a good man.
But I came to realize he suffered with a lot of the same issues I did when it came to self-image, self-loathing and a bad relationship track record. I sympathized because I know exactly what that feels like. So, what did I do? I put my everything into trying to heal him, but my biggest mistake was attaching my whole self-worth to the outcome.
What I thought was me coming from a place of love, was actually me coming from a place of emptiness. Since he was not emotionally available, and I was ridden with anxiety, we did not work out. We lasted a year before it ended for good and in that time, we had many break-ups, but we always came back to each other. Something I never did, and he admitted it was a first for him too.
So, at this time I had moved back to Ireland and I was forced to look at my life and where I went wrong. My relationship with the Air Force guy really made me look deep within and see how I saw my world and what I needed to change.
So, my self-love journey began.
I played the victim a lot and blamed others for how things turned out. But as soon as I realized that I was responsible for everything in my life and, most importantly, accepted it. My whole perception changed.
My depression practically disappeared, and my anxiety became manageable as soon as I gave myself enough compassion to actually learn my triggers. I became my first priority. Naturally, I went through a few weeks after the break up with the Air Force guy wanting to fill the void immediately with another man, because that’s what I’ve always done. But I stopped, I did not fill the void with another person because I finally realized that no one could fill that void except me. I was latching onto anyone I could, desperately trying to fill this void, and that is what got me into those awful situations.
So, I started meditating again, I started taking better care of myself, I changed my wardrobe, I started actually being present when I was hanging out with my friends.
I noticed a huge shift in how people treated me, people seemed friendlier. And I just let life flow organically. I am so glad I started down this journey, I’m finding out things about myself (good and bad) and am accepting myself for who I am. If you take anything away from reading my story let it be this, accept the good the bad and the ugly about yourself and own every part of it.
Once you do that, I promise things will start to fall into place.
Until next time,
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